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Senators Urge DOJ to Weigh in On ADA Impact on Websites

BY BEN JACOBSON ben.jacobson@thmedia.com
September 16, 2018

A pair of U.S. senators from Iowa say it’s unclear whether the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act transcends the physical world into the cyber realm.

Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both Republicans, have asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to explore whether the 1990 law applies to website accessibility as well.

“For nearly 30 years, the ADA has protected countless individuals with disabilities, ensuring physical access to ‘any place of public accommodation,'” the senators wrote in a letter, co-authored by lawmakers from North Carolina, South Dakota, Idaho and Texas. “We support the ADA and all that it stands for.

Talking Gloves, Tactile Windows: New Tech Helps the Disabled

Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, September 13, 2018

LONDON — Hadeel Ayoub slips a black glove onto her hand before beginning the swish of sign language that is meaningless to the untrained observer. Then she pushes a button on her wrist, and a small speaker relays the message drawn in the air: “Let’s Dance!”

“My dream is to give a voice to those who can’t speak,” says the 36-year-old inventor who is developing her BrightSign glove while working toward a Ph.D. in assistive technology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Wegmans Adds a ‘Game-Changer’ for Visually Impaired Shopping

By: Jason Law
Updated: Aug 29, 2018

BOSTON – Grocery shopping can be very stressful. Navigating crowded aisles in a store full of people is frustrating, but if you’re blind, like Kim Charlson, then grocery shopping can be almost impossible.

A new tool, however, could revolutionize shopping for people who can’t see.

It’s an app that helps the visually impaired navigate the world and does it using the eyes in your smartphone.

“You come into a grocery store and you’re just bombarded with everything all around you,” Charlson explained. “It’s just not the place a blind person can get around independently without some kind of support.”

Apple Sued Over Claims Website is Inaccessible to Visually Impaired Users

By Malcolm Owen
Monday, August 20, 2018

Apple has become the target of a new lawsuit, one that claims the iPhone producer’s website is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not being fully accessible to blind or visually-impaired consumers, due to the way the website itself is coded.

Filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York on Sunday, the complaint from the plaintiff Himelda Mendez is said to be filed on behalf of other users in a similar accessibility situation. Apple is the sole defendant in the lawsuit.

Most Business Websites Are Sitting Ducks for ADA Suits, Experts Say

Disabled turn to courts for equal access to business, government websites By Ron Hurtibise
Contact Reporter
South Florida Sun Sentinel
July 22, 2018

Business owners who think that building a wheelchair ramp and grab bars in the restroom will ward off South Florida’s accessibility testers and their lawsuits need to fire up their computers, go to their websites and ask: “What’s missing?”

Lawsuits accusing businesses of failing to ensure that their websites are accessible to deaf, blind, or otherwise disabled customers have been on the rise in recent years and show no sign of tapering off, say attorneys who specialize in accessibility litigation.

4 Areas AI Makes the World More Accessible

AI technology such as voice interaction, image recognition and real-time captioning is starting to break down barriers for people with sensory, physical and cognitive disabilities.

In today’s world, so much relies on information. But this can make navigating everyday life even more of a barrier for people with a sensory, physical or cognitive impairment. Fortunately, the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology is helping people with disabilities both interact with the physical world and use digital devices and services.

Disability Legislation to Crack Down on Public Bodies in the UK

New legislation coming into force will mean that, as early as 2020, all public-sector organisations, including all councils will need to make sure that their digital services and online information are accessible for disabled people.

In October 2016, an EU Directive came in which states all public-sector bodies must have accessible digital services by 2020. This means that they can be used by people with disabilities and additional needs, for example using screen readers or other assistive technology. Brexit has meant that this Directive is now being transferred into UK law and will come into effect in its first phase in 2020. The move will ensure that the 20% of people in the UK who have a limiting illness or disability will be able to access public sector websites, software and mobile applications.

A Simple Way to Improve a Billion Lives: Eyeglasses

It’s the biggest health crisis you’ve never heard of. Doctors, philanthropists and companies are trying to solve it. By Andrew Jacobs
New York Times, Originally posted May 5, 2018

PANIPAT, India: Shivam Kumar’s failing eyesight was manageable at first. To better see the chalkboard, the 12-year-old moved to the front of the classroom, but in time, the indignities piled up.

Increasingly blurry vision forced him to give up flying kites and then cricket, after he was repeatedly whacked by balls he could no longer see. The constant squinting gave him headaches, and he came to dread walking home from school.

“Sometimes I don’t see a motorbike until it’s almost in my face,” he said.

CSUN 2018 Heralds The Year of Wearables–Unless It Doesn’t

Shelly Brisbin

When reporting on an event like the annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, it’s tempting to try to sum it up with a single narrative. This is my third year covering the trade show portion of CSUN. In addition to asking questions for AccessWorld, I was part of the Blind Bargains podcast team You’ll find links to some of our interviews at the link below.

A couple of years ago, Jamie Pauls wrote that CSUN and other accessibility-focused trade shows inaugurated the year of Braille. This year, a number of the products announced in 2016 are available to purchase, some have even been updated, and a few still aren’t available at all. Most of these items exemplify important improvements in function, price, or both.

Blind Woman Helps Guide Successful Voting-Rights Lawsuit Against State of Ohio

By: Rick Reitzel
Updated: Apr 12, 2018

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A lawsuit brought by Disability Rights Ohio has succeeded in requiring Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office into providing accessible voting solutions for the blind.

NBC4 spoke with the woman behind the lawsuit.

Many people take voting for granted as just a simple procedure, but for those with disabilities like Shelbi Hindel, who has been blind since two, accessibility for voting has been a challenge.

“I still want to vote independently and I want to be able to have an option, like others have,” Hindel said.

She has been very mobile, raising two children to adulthood and working jobs for the state and federal governments.

Beyond Title III: Website Accessibility Lawsuits Filed Alleging Inaccessible Online Employment Applications

Seyfarth Synopsis: Plaintiffs who pursued numerous web accessibility actions under Title III of the ADA are now using website accessibility to test the limits of a different area of law employment law California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Over the past few years, we have frequently written about the proliferation of demand letters and lawsuits alleging that a business denied a usually blind or vision-impaired individual access to its goods and services because the business’ website was not accessible, in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state laws. One firm that pursued many web accessibility actions under Title III and California’s Unruh Act (including a success in the Bags N’ Baggage case decided in plaintiff’s favor by a California state court) is now going after employers. In recent demand letters and lawsuits, they are alleging that employment websites are not accessible to blind job seekers, in violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California’s corollary to Title I of the ADA.

Why Financial Institutions Should Strive to Meet the Needs of Persons With Disabilities(PWD’s)

April 4 2018

There are over 56 million people living with disabilities in the United States, which makes them the biggest minority group in the nation. With the latest technological innovations, one would think that financial accessibility for the disabled would be a resolved matter in this day and age; however, that is not the case.

As reported by the FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, “more than 5 million people with disabilities are currently unbanked or underbanked”. However, the good news is, financial institutions are becoming more and more aware of the reality of the situation, and are doing their best to create long-term business relationships with people with disabilities.

Apple Proposes Accessibility Emoji, Including Service Dog

Apple on Friday proposed a batch of new accessibility characters, including two different service dogs, according to Emojipedia. Angela Moscaritolo
March 23, 2018

New accessibility emoji could be headed to mobile devices next year.

Apple on Friday proposed a batch of at least nine new accessibility characters, according to Emojipedia. The lot includes two different service dogs, a person with a cane, an ear with a hearing aid, a person in an electric wheelchair, a person in a manual wheelchair, a prosthetic arm, and a prosthetic leg. Another newly proposed emoji has with an index finger on the cheek to represent the American Sign Language gesture for “deaf.”

WFD and WASLI Statement on Use of Signing Avatars

Helsinki, Finland / Melbourne, Australia
14 March 2018

This statement from the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI) is concerned with the way in which decisions on where and when to use signing avatars as a form of access to spoken or written content is being managed by public authorities. The difference in linguistic quality between humans and avatars is why WFD and WASLI cautions against the use of signing avatars as a replacement for human signers.

This statement is to advise on processes with how and when to determine appropriate use of signing avatars.

Trudeau Liberals Axe Funding for Blind and Vision-Impaired Books

By Brian Hill Associate Producer Global News

Kirsty Duncan rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday November 3, 2009.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has decided it will no longer fund the production of accessible books for blind and vision-impaired Canadians, Global News has learned.

Starting April 1, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), which is Canada’s largest producer of accessible and alternate-format books, will no longer receive government funding for converting conventional books into accessible formats. The news comes nine days before the CNIB is set to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Technology Innovations: Making the Online World More Accessible

Ross McLaughlin and Sandra Hermiston, CTV Vancouver
Published Wednesday, March 7, 2018

From wheelchair ramps to braille on ATMs, you can see the steps businesses are taking to make the physical world more accessible for people with disabilities. But what about when it comes to using computers or going online?

“Being able to use the computer and have things in an electronic format is really a life changer,” said Shawn Marsolais, executive director of Blind Beginnings who is living with visual impairment.

The average person now spends around five hours a day on their smartphone, but for people with mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive impairments that’s not always possible.

Ninety-six percent of Visually Impaired Adults Watch TV on a Regular Basis, According to Comcast and the American Foundation for the Blind

Ashley Boucher
SFGate, February 17, 2018

The majority of people with visual disabilities watch four or more hours of television per day, which is almost as much as the general public, a new survey by Comcast and the American Foundation for the Blind found.

That’s compared to a Nielsen study from 2016 that found the average person watched about five hours of television per day.

“It’s a myth to think that you can’t enjoy television just because you have a visual disability,” said Tom Wlodkowski, Vice President of Accessibility for Comcast, who was born blind.

It’s OK To Look At Your Phone At A Broadway Show, If Your Hearing Is Impaired

February 11, 2018·4:55 PM ET
Jeff Lunden

Seventeen Broadway theaters are now using technology that allows deaf and hearing-impaired patrons to see closed captions on their smartphones. Unlike the white smartphone background seen here, the GalaPro app screen is dark.

Jerry Bergman is sitting in the audience at a Broadway matinée performance of The Band’s Visit. Despite the fact that a huge sign above the stage tells the audience in English, Hebrew and Arabic to turn off cellphones, Bergman is keeping his on so he can read closed captions while watching the show.

UK Government Website Offline After Hack Infects Thousands More Worldwide

Thousands of websites globally have been hijacked by code which made computers run cryptocurrency mining software. Sunday 11 February 2018
By Nick Stylianou, Defence & Technology Producer

“The Coinhive script was inserted into a popular third-party accessibility plugin “BrowseAloud” which is used to help blind or partially-sighted people access the web.”

More than 5,000 websites have been hacked to force visitors’ computers to run software that mines a cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin.

Users loading the websites of the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Student Loans Company, as well as the council websites for Manchester City, Camden, and Croydon – and even the homepage of the United States Courts – had their computers’ processing power hijacked by hackers.

A Delicate Approach to Restoring Control

08-02-2018
by Industry Update

An Australian startup programme is aiming to tackle lifestyle problems caused by fine motor control issues, an ever-pervasive ailment that dramatically impacts quality-of-life.

Their solution is a hand controller designed to help people with dexterity issues perform daily household functions: the i-boll.

The i-boll, roughly the size of a junior soccer ball, links to a smartphone app to connect with other devices and uses the smartphone’s built-in accelerometer to track movement.

The wireless device is operated with two hands and aims to help people living with cerebral palsy, arthritis, those recovering from a stroke and the elderly to operate smart devices and household appliances.